Texas politicians in both parties pleaded for peace Wednesday afternoon after supporters backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the Electoral College certification of his reelection defeat.
“I like many people voted for President Trump in the 2020 election and hoped for a different result,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin). “But violence and destruction is not the way to express your grievances. This is disgraceful and has to end.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) was more succinct in a tweet, saying, “Stop this bullshit right now.”
The fracas began shortly after some GOP lawmakers, led by Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, launched a dispute to the certification of Arizona’s electoral votes. Over the ensuing hour, scenes emerged of Trump supporters storming barricades, breaching the Capitol and even reaching at least one of chambers.
“Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW,” Cruz wrote on Twitter, adding that violence is “ALWAYS wrong” and that “those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support.”
Cruz has spent weeks leading up to Wednesday’s vote sowing doubts in the electoral process and repeating unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.
By early afternoon, proceedings in the Capitol ground to a halt as security rushed Vice President Mike Pence out of the U.S. Senate chamber and the building was placed on lockdown. The mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, ordered a curfew starting at 5 p.m.
Reports from the scene show Trump supporters swarming the hallways of the Capitol carrying pro-Trump paraphernalia – just steps from where lawmakers were meeting. Lawmakers and reporters described hundreds of pro-Trump supporters barreling past fence barricades and clashing with officers. Some demonstrators also mobbed the second floor lobby just outside the Senate chamber while law enforcement officers attempted to guard the chamber doors.
“I’m currently sheltering in place. The Capitol building has been breached and both chambers are locked down,” wrote U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso). “This is the chaos and lawlessness @realDonaldTrump has created.”
Amid the chaos and confusion, several Republicans encouraged Trump to rally his supporters to tamp down on the violence.
“Mr. President, get to a microphone immediately and establish calm and order. Now. And work with Capitol Police to secure the Capitol. It’s the last thing you’ll do that matters as President,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Austin. In a subsequent interview with The Texas Tribune, Roy, who noted he and his staff were safe, called on the White House to “take action immediately” and for the president to “speak and tell people to retreat from the Capitol.”
Among those in Washington Wednesday was Attorney General Ken Paxton, who spoke at a pro-Trump rally outside the White House before Congress began the Electoral College certification process. Last month Paxton led an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in four battleground states.
On Wednesday afternoon, Paxton called for calm.
“I am sorely disappointed today in the certification of the election, but I don’t believe violence is the answer,” Paxton said.
But later in the afternoon, Paxton tweeted a baseless claim, saying “These are not Trump supporters.” Many of the supporters in the videos are waving Trump flags and signs and wearing “MAGA” hats and other clothing. Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Another state leader, Gov. Greg Abbott, issued a statement saying the “violence and mayhem must stop.” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also addressed the situation in a statement that invoked both the pro-Trump protesters Wednesday and apparently those who demonstrated against police brutality last summer.
“Those who burned down our cities last year and those who stormed the U.S. Capitol today do not represent the people of this country,” Patrick said. “We can disagree loudly and protest peacefully but the behavior we’ve seen today and in the last year can never be acceptable to any American.”
Patrick chaired Trump’s reelection campaign in Texas and has sided with him in his post-election fixation with voter fraud despite no evidence of widespread fraud. Patrick at one point offered up to $1 million as a reward for evidence of fraud.
The Republican Party of Texas also weighed in, saying in a tweet that it supports free-speech rights but “we do condemn violence and pray for all in our nation’s capital.” Its chairman, Allen West, was a vocal supporter of Paxton’s lawsuit and suggested secession by “law-abiding states” after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the suit. West has also appeared at “Stop the Steal” events following Trump’s reelection defeat.
The state party also said it was removing its sergeant at arms, Walter West, due to a statement he had made “about the lawlessness occurring at the Capitol Building.” The party said it “in no way endorses” his statement. West made multiple Facebook posts Wednesday encouraging people who were storming the Capitol, including one where he shared images of the protesters and said, “You Accepted ANTIFA burning down your cities… Now Deal with them taking back OUR HOUSE!”
Perhaps the strongest condemnation among Texas Republicans in the House came from former Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes. He wrote in a tweet: “This is an attack on our democracy and domestic terrorism to try to stop certifying elections. This should be treated as a coup led by a president that will not be peacefully removed from power.”
There were also denunciations from Texas Republicans who had resisted objecting to the Electoral College certification, including Roy.
“To those storming the Capitol – I am on the House floor and I will not be deterred from upholding my oath, under God, to the Constitution by mob demand,” he wrote. The Austin-area Republican made his disdain for Wednesday’s events clear, telling the Tribune he didn’t think Congress “should be going down this road” of objecting to the certification and calling for criminal action against members of the mob who breached the Capitol.
“People need to go jail,” Roy said. “They need to go to jail for a very long time.”
Early Wednesday evening, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), a staunch pro-Trump Republican, urged protesters to refrain from violence. Gohmert was the subject of a censure resolution from Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida, after he warned of post-election violence following a string of court losses by Trump and his supporters.
“Please people; no violence. That only hurts our cause. Those leading the charge like the guy in yellow with the communist hammer & sickle tattoo: stopping the violence applies to you too,” Gohmert tweeted.
Texas Democrats, meanwhile, were explicit in linking the harrowing scene to Trump’s refusal to accept the election outcome and belligerent rhetoric.
“This is what Trump wanted,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin). “Trump’s sedition: determined to keep us from doing our constitutional duty.”
In an interview with C-SPAN, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) said the pro-Trump rally that took place earlier Wednesday likely “sent a strong message to a lot of the folks here.” Cuellar then reprimanded Trump for being “quick to call the National Guard … and other folks to certain places when the left was protesting,” but not responding as fast to condemn his own supporters.
Trump previously called on his supporters to rally in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. At a protest earlier in the day, Trump acknowledged that rallygoers were going to march toward the Capitol to encourage lawmakers not to certify the vote.
“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically, make your voices heard today,” he said.
After facing criticism for not doing enough to end the violence at the Capitol, Trump tweeted a video Wednesday afternoon urging his supporters to “go home in peace” – though he continued to share a baseless claim that the election had been stolen from him.
“We have to have law and order. We don’t want anyone hurt,” he said in a video message filmed at the White House. Then, the president appeared to offer encouragement to his supporters: “We love you. You’re very special,” Trump said. “I know how you feel.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.